The haulage sector is to receive €18 million in financial supports over the next few weeks.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the sector is vital to the economy "helping us to get the goods that we need helps to get our exports out to market".

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, he said the haulage sector is "facing increased energy costs, like all businesses, and this is a further intervention to help them".

According to research conducted by the Department of Transport, for the last six months of 2022, fuel prices for operators continued to be just under €300 per vehicle more expensive per week than in 2021.

The Licensed Haulage Support Scheme will mitigate those costs.

The Licensed Haulage Support Scheme 2023 is designed to target higher levels of support at smaller operators that are facing increased operating and fuel costs.

It will therefore be operated on a graduated payment basis, meaning a larger relative level of support for smaller operators.

Payments per vehicle will be calculated based on €1,200 for the first five vehicles on a licence; €700 for vehicles six to 20; and €200 for each vehicle thereafter.

Approximately 74% of licensed haulage operators have five or less vehicles.

The Department will commence payments under the scheme by end of Q1 2023 subject to the completion of the required EU State Aid process.

This scheme follows on from the Licensed Haulage Emergency Support Scheme.

The previous scheme provided a flat rate grant support equivalent to €100 per week for eight weeks for each eligible heavy goods vehicle authorised on the licence of a licensed road haulage operator as of 11 March 2022.

More than €15.6 million paid out to 3,084 operators.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the supports will be an additional, targeted measure which will be "targeted at small haulers who don't have a large number of vehicles".

He added: "We did something similar about a year-and-a-half ago and it works, so it's additional measures [that] have been planned for some time.

"The haulage sector is the one that's most affected by the high price of diesel particularly," he said.

Additional reporting Dyane Connor